The life and times of dairy farmers

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What Educators Have to Say About MILK MEN

Jan Haaken has taken on animal agriculture – specifically dairy farming – in this movie. She produced this movie for the “non-farming people” as one dairy farmer describes the rest of us. This is for everybody who knows that the little red barn and green pasture no longer represent modern farming but are searching for an honest insight into animal agriculture. MILK MEN addresses tough questions, from animal and labor welfare to the role of women in family farming. The film provides an honest insight into the tough lives that dairy farmers still live.

I thank Jan Haaken for respecting viewers’ intelligence by not trying to disguise the truth or attempting to influence the message through biased reporting. After watching this movie, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of fairness. Here is a snapshot into the families and companies that make up animal agriculture – it’s now up to the rest of us – the “non-farming-people” to watch and make up our mind if we feel reassured as we reach for the next piece of cheese. As an educator, this is exactly the type of movie that I appreciate and will use in my classes. It respects the intelligence of my students and provides an honest insight into animal agriculture.

Lisbeth Goddick, Ph.D.
Food Science & Technology, Oregon State University

Milk Men provides a refreshingly balanced and nuanced perspective on our complex relationship with dairy agriculture.  It is a wonderful film for classroom use because it goes beyond the black-and-white approach of so many films on farming and helps students to appreciate the “grey” areas. Most films about the dairy industry do not reflect the realities of dairy farming, further contributing to the growing gap between consumers and those involved with animal agriculture.  This film effectively shows how a variety of factors (economy of scale, environmental and market pressures, land prices, shortage of labor, and family farm succession) have contributed to the relatively rapid change in the way farmers milk cows in the Pacific Northwest.  While these changes may not be consistent with the public’s romantic view of small-scale dairy farms, the film accurately shows that those of us involved in the dairy industry still have a desire to take care of cattle and farm workers while providing a quality product. 

Mike Paros, DVM
Large Animal Veterinarian, Faculty, The Evergreen State College

The documentary “Milk Men”, by Jan Haaken, gently pulls aside the hazy curtain of romanticism that we have for our dairy farmers exposing the hard realities and decisions made by the people who provide this basic commodity. It is a sensitive examination of the choices people are making to maintain a viable dairy business: how to handle the push for expansion, can the farm be passed along to the next generation, and what is the role of women in the dairy industry. And finally touching on the elephant in the room: is the small farmer lifestyle sustainable or are mega-farms the key to survival? “Milk Men” is a thought provoking and nuanced look at our dairy farms and farmers.

Judith Klinger
Founder and Director, World-Eats

This documentary takes a no-holds-barred look at the dairy industry in northwestern Washington State. The viewer is taken on a sometimes dirty, sometimes beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, always interesting journey from how things were to how they are. The external factors forcing most dairies to “go big or go bust” are explained by producers in their own words. Their struggles, pride, decisions, frustrations and joys are honestly depicted in this well-rounded portrayal of modern dairy farming. The 99% of the U.S. population not directly involved with farming will come to understand that dairy producers are also mechanics, personnel managers, crop producers, financial planners, parents, neighbors, children and community leaders. Milk Men is a visually stunning history lesson about an industry for which there is both nostalgia and conflict; misunderstanding and goodwill; tradition and change. It leaves the viewer pondering—and caring about—the answer to “Who will dairy in the future?”

Despite the fact that dairy producers often need to take out operating loans and assume more debt to continue to farm, like the producers featured in this film, most can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. First and foremost, they remain people who care about the quality of life for their animals, selves, family and community.

Dr. Susan Kerr
Washington State University Northwest Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist

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